"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

David reviews Cogan's Trade

Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins

"There's all kinds of reasons for things," Cogan said. "Guys get whacked for doing things, guys get whacked for not doing things, it don't matter. The only thing that matters is if you're the guy that's gonna get whacked. That's the only fuckin' thing."

                                                                                                                                                              -- Jackie Cogan

And that right there sums up this book. This criminal world surfaces through the characters that inhabit it and how they perceive the violent events that surround them. The entire plot hovers at the edge of the story, revealed piece by piece through the various character interactions. It can be a little disorienting at first. Pages and pages of one character talking can go by that, at first glance, seem totally irrelevant to what's happening. But there in lies the beauty of the novel. The actual plot is extremely straight forward. A couple of lowlife hoods knock over a mob run card game and mob enforcer Jackie Cogan is called in to make things right. It's through the richly drawn, and vile, characters this world is seen through that makes it so much more interesting. The structure gives you a ground level view of what transpires letting you see only what the characters see, adding an unknowable danger. Just like the characters in the story, you have no idea who's around the next corner. Gritty, propulsive, and wickedly funny, Cogan's Trade is a fantastic read. Highly Recommended to fans of Elmore Leonard, James Elroy, Don Winslow, and Quentin Tarantino.   

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

David reviews Kings of Cool

Kings of Cool by Don Winslow
Don Winslow pulls off a neat trick with The Kings of Cool. We see how Ben, Chon, and O come together, and all the pieces for Savages are set up. Within in that twisty plot we're treated to some surprise walk-on's by characters from some of his other novels, bring the Winslow universe that much closer together. I won't say who, not because it ruins anything plot-wise, but it was a nice surprise as a reader, and feel it should be left as such. A nice bit of gravity is given to each of the main characters as we learn about their pasts, and what a past they have.

The prose is terse, muscular, and engaging. The story isn't quite as tight as Savages, which worried me in the beginning. But as the conclusion draws near it all comes together. It made me want to revisit Savages just to see it all the way through to the bloody, brutal end.

Monday, February 25, 2013

David reviews Packing For Mars

Packing For Mars by Marry Roach.

I always wanted to travel into space. After reading this, I'm seriously rethinking that dream. The thought of being encased in, essentially a tin can that smells like a Porta Potty, eating food that gets re-hydrated as you chew it, while contemplating my ever decreasing bone mass just seems...enormously challenging. Needless to say, Packing For Mars is anything but. Fascinating, hilarious, and completely engrossing, Mary Roach digs into the many facets that accompany life in the freezing killer vacuum of space. I'll put it this way. Star Trek this ain't. Space travel, as it stands, is more akin to the frontier life of the early settlers; uncomfortable, dangerous, and smelly.